Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sunday's Sermon - It’s Not Rocket Science

Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, June 25, in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio. You can hear a podcast of the sermon on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.

Romans 6:12-23

Now don’t let sin rule in your mortal bodies, to obey it’s desires. Nor present your members as weapons of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as those who from death are alive and [present] your members as weapons of righteousness to God. For sin will not be lord over you. For you are not under law, but under grace. 

Now what? Should we sin, because we aren’t under law but under grace? Absolutely not! You know that the one to whom you present yourselves as slaves in obedience, you’re slaves of the one whom you obey whether it’s sin that leads to death or obedience that leads to righteousness, [you know that,] don’t you? 

But thanks be to God, that though you were slaves of sin, you were obedient from the heart to that which you were given, a type of teaching, and because you were set free from the sin, you were made a slave of righteousness. As a person, I’m speaking because of the weakness of your flesh. For as you presented your members as slaves of impurity and lawlessness upon lawlessness, thus now you present your members as slaves of righteousness in holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with respect to righteousness. Now what fruit did you have then, from those things which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now, because you are free from sin but enslaved to God, you have the fruit of holiness and of life eternal. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of grace from God is life eternal in Christ Jesus, our lord.

It’s Not Rocket Science

Image result for the crawling eye gifYou know, it’s interesting. As I was knocking around what title I’d give this sermon, my first thought was simply “Dah.” But you know, after thinking about it, I decided that “It’s Not Rocket Science” was a much better title. But I’ve got to tell you, the change had nothing to do with any new or profound truth that suddenly hit me or with me coming up with something that would be more comfortable, you know, more “sermon-appropriate.” Instead it had to do with a movie I saw on YouTube a couple of weeks ago called The Crawling Eye. It was made back in the late fifties, and it was about these aliens who came down to earth, and all they all had one great big eye and a bunch of tentacles. Man, it was great.

And without giving anything away in terms of plot, I think I’m safe in saying that the aliens in the movie, they were as ugly as sin. But in spite of that, they were great rocket scientists. I’m telling you, they were able to build a space ship to fly across the galaxy, and they did it without any hands, just those tentacles. Clearly, they were a superior race in everything but looks.


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And you know, it’s seems to me that sometimes we assume that we need the same kind of special smarts to respond to Jesus Christ. In other words, I think a lot of good, well-meaning Christians make responding to Jesus Christ overly complicated. And I think I’ve got a pretty good idea why, because when I was younger, I did the same thing myself. You see, for me, it just didn’t seem fair for God to give his grace to just anybody, that just didn’t seem right, and so I believed that there should and must be all kinds of decisions and promises you had to make and all kinds of words and prayers you had to say. you know, to get on God’s good side, you know, to get saved. And although they weren’t particular hard, they were kind of like secret knowledge that only someone on the inside, you know, someone who was already a Christian knew. I mean, salvation couldn’t be just out there for everybody, right; there had to be something that separated the sheep from the goats. And so I took it upon myself to make the way into grace just a little complicated. Man, every club needs a secret handshake, right? 

And of course, after you were on the inside, well, it really shouldn’t get easier, especially since dedicated believers can’t seem to agree on Christians can and can’t do. In fact, the only real guide I thought I had was that thing I’ve heard said about Presbyterians: we can do anything we want; we just can’t enjoy it. Now back in the day, that just makes sense. Good night nurse, if you’re suppose to be Christian, and if you enjoyed doing something a lot, man, it must be sinful. And so I established all these piddly rules about getting in and staying loyal. Now that’s what I believed, and I believed it for years. 

And even though you may not go to that extreme, sometimes how we think people should respond to Christ is, well, it’s just more complicated than it needs to be. And I’ll tell you I think that’s a real shame, and I’ll tell you why. Remember that passage we read from Romans? Well, when you get right down to it, if we trust the Apostle Paul, responding to Jesus Christ, man, it’s really simple and clear and easy. In other words, it’s just not rocket science. 

Image result for Christian charityFor example, think about the scripture we just read, and consider what Paul said. He wrote that there were two things we shouldn’t do and two things we should do. And like I said, they’re both right here in the verses we read. He wrote, “Now don’t let sin rule in your mortal bodies, to obey it’s desires. Nor present your members as weapons of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as those who from death are alive and [present] your members as weapons of righteousness to God.” In other words, according to Paul, we should stop acting like sin is somehow our boss and we’re a bunch of ignorant peons who don’t have much of a choice. That’s one. And two, we shouldn’t use our members, and for Paul this usually means parts of our body, they shouldn’t be used to do things we know are wrong. Put another way, when we feel like hitting someone, we should probably calm down. And when we feel like giving a guy a good, shift kick, we probably should take a step back. And when we feel like using our tongue to hurt someone else or to spread a little gossip, we probably should keep our mouths shut. Don’t hurt others. This is what we shouldn’t do. Now that’s not complicated. And on the positive side, we should look to God for direction and guidance, to present ourselves to him, ready to do what he’s called us to do. That’s one. And two, instead of using what he’s given us to do some of the stuff that Paul associated with unrighteousness, and I’m talking about evil, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, and craftiness, you know what I mean, the kind of stuff that’s purely self-serving and has nothing to do with the truth; in other words, instead of doing things we know are wrong, maybe we should use our hands to help someone up who’s fallen. And maybe we should use our feet to walk with someone who needs our company. And maybe we should use our tongues to build up those around us and to encourage them to be everything God has created them to be. Don’t hurt, instead help. That’s how Paul thought we should respond. You see, if we want to know how we can respond to Jesus Christ, it’s right here in these verses. And I’ll tell you, what Paul suggested for us to do, well, it’s just not all that difficult to understand. 

But he didn’t stop there; Paul even wrote about why it was simple, at least simple for us to comprehend. And again, it’s right here. I mean, why should we look past sin and focus on God? Why should we stop hurting and start helping? It’s simple: “For sin will not be lord over you. For you are not under law, but under grace.” And how did this change us? Again it’s simple: “You know that the one to whom you present yourselves as slaves in obedience, you’re slaves of the one whom you obey whether it’s sin that leads to death or obedience that leads to righteousness, [you know that,] don’t you? But thanks be to God, that though you were slaves of sin, you were obedient from the heart to that which you were given, a type of teaching, and because you were set free from the sin, you were made a slave of righteousness.” And what difference does that make in our lives? Man, it’s simple too: “As a person, I’m speaking because of the weakness of your flesh. For as you presented your members as slaves of impurity and lawlessness upon lawlessness, thus now you present your members as slaves of righteousness in holiness. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free with respect to righteousness. Now what fruit did you have then, from those things which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now, because you are free from sin but enslaved to God, you have the fruit of holiness and of life eternal. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of grace from God is life eternal in Christ Jesus, our lord.” Now I know that sounds complex and wordy, but I’ll tell you, his point is pretty clear. 


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You see, for us responding is simple, because of three things that have already happened. First, God has already acted. As Paul wrote in Romans, Jesus has already died on the cross and we’ve already died with him and through his death the power of sin is already broken. Sin is no longer our boss, because Jesus Christ is our Lord. That’s one. 

And second, because of that, who we are has already changed. Using the example of slavery, we aren’t slaves to sin anymore. Instead, now we’re slaves of righteousness, slaves of God. Now, understand, this change of masters has already taken place, it’s a done deal. And this is something that God has done to and for us. And I’ll tell you, we had nothing to do with it, because the last time I looked, no slave has the power or right to choose his or her own master. Slaves are slaves for crying out loud and that’s exactly what we are. In the past, we were slaves to sin, but now, now we’re slaves of God. I’m telling you, the transfer has already taken place. That’s two. 

And finally, because of that, we know exactly who we’re suppose to serve. And again, this is not complicated. I mean, think about it, only an idiot slave tries to serve his former owner. I’ll tell you, that’s one way to really tick off the guy who owns you now. But since God is now our master and we know it, unless we’re really stupid, there’s no reason for our former owner, sin, to distract us from serving our new owner, God. Therefore, we can focus all our attention and energy on doing what our new master wants us to do, and I’m talking about reflecting his holiness and his love. In a world full of darkness, we can reflect light; in a world full of death, we can reflect life. Why? Because that’s exactly what God has told us and given us the ability to do. It’s as simple as that. 

And so now do you see why I said responding to Jesus isn’t rocket science? I mean, even though, for our own personal reasons, we may make this as complicated as we want, it’s actually really simple to understand. We’re called simply to stop serving sin and to start serving God. And the reason, well, that’s simple too. God acted and we changed and now we can respond. Of course, if I’d gone with my original title, right now I’d say “dah.” But instead, I’m saying, “This is not rocket science.” But then, when you come down to the specifics, you know, the specific things we can do in our world, and I’m talking about a world in which most people don’t know Jesus but I believe have an inner sense of and desire for God, the things we can do and say to show and to share that almost paradoxical message of grace and accountability, well, that might take a little thought.

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